We spoke with Lori Hawthorne, Divisional Director for eTail, about the eTail West event in Palm Springs this week. Thanks for talking to us, Lori, we are excited to hear about what eTail is offering retailers and other attendees this year and learn more about some of the new workshops you have planned.
Q. For those who are new to eTail, can you give us a little background on theprogram, how long it has been running and how it has grown through the years? What are the key themes that are driving this year’s program?
A. The eTail events have been running since 1999, they were first launched during the dot.com boom and now we are in our 18th year! And the event has grown from 200 executives at the first conference to over 2500 for our 2017 flagship event.
The retail world has reached a tipping point and there are a few trends that are driving the industry forward. The first theme we dig into is around omnichannel. We have streams and keynote sessions focusing on the customer facing side of omnichannel, as well as back-end operations. As brick and mortar retailers are trying to compete with eCommerce behemoths, a huge challenge they face is the way that they can use omnichannel as a competitive advantage.
The second theme is mobile. Retailers are still challenged trying to turn mobile traffic into sales, and that’s why we cover mobile with dedicated workshop days, with different streams and within our keynote sessions. Mobile first is critical for retailers to grow their businesses. Mobile strategies either assist the sale or serve as a bridge for omnichannel success. That’s why we are featuring Chieh Huang, CEO of Boxed, discussing how integral mobile is to the success of his disruptive retail company. We also have the SVP of Mobile at 1800 Flowers and the CEO of the Mobile Marketing Association discussing mobile attribution best practices and multi-device measurement.
The third theme is content. As retailers struggle to not only engage their customers, but keep them coming back, providing content that goes beyond just trying to sell a product will produce real wins. They can also make the shopping experience feel highly personalized. And, there are many ways that retailers can create and manage their content to engage customers in the short and long term. We deep dive into content with dedicated streams and workshop days focused around personalization, engagement, retention and CRM tactics.
Q. What would you say were some key challenge for retailers in 2016? What do you think they will be in 2017?
A. Some of the biggest challenges retailers continue to face are around how to create efficiencies and truly execute on omnichannel, how to blend digital and physical channels, establishing a mobile first strategy, shaping experiences that truly assist the sale and pushing content that really engages consumers. Of course, trying to measure the success of their marketing campaigns, especially across channels, remains a huge challenge. At eTail West we tackle all of these areas in depth – we recruit speakers from successful and profitable organizations that share hundreds of strategic takeaways. Our content is all about the growth and education of retailers, and it’s built on years of direct research with senior executives.
Q. From your own personal experience, is there a retailer that stands out to you as an “innovator” or “game changer” for introducing new ideas to the industry?
A. There are a number of companies that have been highly disruptive to the retail industry. Most of the disruption happens within a specific vertical. Walmart has been disruptive in the way that they are transforming the omnichannel retail experience. We’re lucky to have the VP/GM of Walmart.com and Jet.com as keynote presenters at the conference. Also, companies such as Boxed, that are taking on the traditional brick and mortar retail model by going online for wholesale products, and Hollar, that is taking on the traditional dollar store model with an online only model.
Q. This year eTail West has partnered with the Department of Commerce’s U.S. Commercial Service and the Global Retail Insights Network (The GRIN Labs), for a new workshop focused on going global with your eCommerce strategy – what made you decide to bring these two groups into the event?
A. Instead of going for a market share grab domestically, U.S. based retailers have to focus on global growth. International retailers are also looking at emerging markets and trying to understand the nuances between them. That’s why we’ve partnered with the Department of Commerce and GRIN Labs to bring a brand new Summit Day to eTail West this year that is all about going global. We’re so excited to partner with the Department of Commerce for the first time, and the head of their Innovation arm has helped to develop a day of programming that looks at global expansion holistically – from payments, to logistics, to detailed success stories and case studies about emerging markets. They will also have training specialists attending that will work with retailers to help solve globalization challenges one on one.
Q. If you could tell retailers to invest in one program over the next 10 months, what would it be?
A. Mobile remains one of the largest and relatively untapped opportunities for retailers. If they can get over the “conversion hump” and turn traffic into sales, they will see their sales soar.
Q. What is the greatest compliment you have ever received after an eTail event from an attendee?
A. The greatest compliment the eTail team has ever received is that we go above and beyond to ensure that no detail is missed. Our customer service is outstanding. Attendees appreciate that the people running the conference are the ones that are managing everything for the attendees and speakers at the conference.
Attending eTail West? Stop by and see us at booth 704. Or join our wine tasting on Tuesday, February 28 at 2:30PM, You can RSVP here. *Retailers only please